[Why the world hates good people.]
DUNN LORING, VA —One sin you don’t hear much about is
envy: the hatred of the good for being good. Yet it’s one of
the most basic human temptations, making its first recorded appearance
near the beginning of the book of Genesis, when Cain hates — and kills
— his brother Abel for being favored by the Lord.
This kind of envy is not to be confused with coveting another’s
possessions. Mere jealousy of wealth can be assuaged by acquiring wealth.
But envy arises from the humiliation of moral inferiority. It makes
you want to denigrate or even destroy the person you feel is better
than you. Usually it takes the form of detraction and slander, but
it can even go to Cain’s extreme.
Since you can’t explain envy in economic terms, it has gone
off the moral map in recent times. Unlike greed, lust, and gluttony,
it’s a spiritual sin that baffles materialist analysis.
But most of the human race has always been well aware of envy. Literature
bears witness to it in such deadly villains as Shakespeare’s
Iago, Milton’s Satan, and Melville’s Claggart (in Billy
Budd). They have nothing to gain by their hatred; they get their satisfaction
by making those they hate suffer. Envy craves its perverse revenge
on virtue and innocence.
When Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died within a week, there was
far more media criticism of the merciful nun than of the swinging princess.
ABC’s commentators on Mother Teresa’s funeral included
the leftist Christopher Hitchens, who has written a book attacking
her with the smirking title “The Missionary Position.” (He
has also called her “the hellbat” and “hell’s
angel.”) Newsweek carried an essay by the feminist Germaine Greer
denigrating her indefatigable works of charity. The Philadelphia
Inquirer ran a similar essay by a liberal Catholic.
Spiritual goodness humiliates us sinners precisely by reminding us
how short we fall. Sometimes we are tempted to hate others just for
trying to practice virtues we’ve given up on.
A huge Washington rally of the Promise
Keepers provoked an amazing
volume of negative comment. Here are men who, far from claiming to
be saints, confess their sins and amend their lives. In an age whose
chief social problem is irresponsible males who desert their children
(thus breeding another generation of even more irresponsible males),
you’d think this movement would be beyond controversy.
Think of it: people actually blaming themselves! Admitting failure
and guilt! Making no claims of victimhood! Asking nothing of others!
Taking no government money! Committing themselves to take care of the
women and children who need them!
Naturally they were denounced by feminists like Patricia Ireland
of the National Organization for Women as “sexist,” “patriarchal,” and “right-wing.” Such
feminists (whose views are always solicited by the media) have been
silent about the problem of deserting males — the chief problem millions
of ordinary American women have to live with.
Who is really interested in solving that problem — the Promise Keepers
or NOW? Since Promise Keepers was founded for the express purpose of
dealing with it, the answer is obvious.
Even the Washington Post tried to embarrass the group with a story
about a dozen or so men wearing Promise Keepers buttons who stopped
in a strip joint the Friday night before the rally. Apparently the
Post thinks such behavior by a handful of jerks discredits the million
or so other men who came to town for the event.
Or maybe the point of the story was simply to smirk. The smirk says: “We
are superior to these gauche people, aren’t we?” The Post
didn’t put the guys in the strip joint on the spot; it called
a Promise Keepers official for comment, as if the organization were
answerable for the conduct of everyone in attendance at a huge, free
Since the media have done their part to glamorize the kind of behavior
the Promise Keepers renounce, a lot of media people must feel secretly
shamed by the earnest effort of ordinary men to grow up, however belatedly,
without the help of sophisticated journalists. As they say, no good
deed goes unpunished.
Copyright © 2010 by Joe Sobran and the
Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.A version of this column
was published by the Universal Press Syndicate on October 7, 1997.
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